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thorog in time_n_jaalami

Chapter 7 - In which machines don't work

"OK, so, now we've switched the field phases around this should work?"

Kat wasn't used to the phone. It was a foreign beast, unknown and dangerous. She preferred to talk to people face-to-face, or online. Besides, she thought this phone got far too much pleasure from sitting against her face.

"It should do, although I guess the ambient magnetic field might interfere...I don't know."

"Gee, thanks for reassuring me."

"Well, I don't know what's going to happen. If I did, it wouldn't be called research. Now let me calibrate my SFMU."


"My social force measurement unit."

"Oh, right, your pom-poms."

"They're slightly more complex than pom-poms. They've been totally re-hauled since the last trial."

"How do you re-haul pom-poms?"

"They're now attached to springs and measures, so that I can at least get a decent idea of the distance and intensity of the spike. And I increased their sensitivity."

"What? How?"

"I spent last night hugging them."

Kat put the phone down for a bit and went through her own private mantra: "Jan's at university, he knows what he's doing. Jan's at university, he knows what he's doing. Jan's at- oh, hell with it." She picked up the phone. "Ready?"


She flipped the switch.

Suddenly, she was exactly where she started. Nothing appeared to have changed. She picked up the phone. "Um, Tho?"

"Yeah?" Jan sounded preoccupied.

"Nothing happened."

"OK....so describe it."



"I flipped the switch and nothing happened. The fridge is humming, but I haven't travelled in time or space."


"In fact, I could have replicated this whole thing just by using a normal fridge."

"Hold on....normal...fridge..."

"What're you doing?"

"Writing everything down."


"When in doubt, write everything down. Check the currant pull."

"You know I'm no good at sports."

"The ammeter I told you to put on the fridge. What's it reading?"

"Oh. Um. One."

"One? One what?"

"One..." Kat squinted. "One amp. Um, isn't that a bit small?"

"Yup. It's working! I thought so!"

"But I'm still here."

"But it's repeatable. At the worst, we're millionaires and have saved the planet from global warming."

"That's a pretty good worst. What about your end? Did you get any readings with the hug machine?"

"The SFMU," said Jan, putting emphasis on his carefully-constructed acronym, "registered a disturbance of 5.4 millimetres north and 5.8 millimetres east."

"Is that good?"

"Well, it means I can start taking measurements. Tell you what, I'll hang up now and I'll email you what I have tonight, OK?"


* * *

It was actually several hours later that Jan started calculations. Watching the SFMU in action, he'd thought of several ways to improve its accuracy, and he wanted to work on that while it was still light.

Now it was dark, and he was kneeling on the bedroom floor with a map, a corkboard, a safety pin and a piece of string.

"5.4 north.....5.8 east..." He punched some numbers into a calculator. Those were pretty good measurements, but it'd be nice if he could up the sensitivity again. Maybe with smaller bits of string...

He stretched the string out. Give it a millimetre either way for error - he wasn't too sure about his equipment...and if he bent the string a bit it could just pass it through the south of California, still nowhere near Kat's house.

Jan swore quietly. It must work! It was too simple not to! Unless the curvature of the Earth had something to do with it....and he'd been receiving ripples from it travelling the other way around the Earth too...and what if it travelled through the Earth?

He got up and jumped to his computer, to start reading up on the subject of earthquake detection. The string had fallen in a perfectly straight line along the ruler. If you curved it a bit, you could imagine it passing along the south border of California, and maybe even looping back around if it were some new force that no one had ever dealt with before.

Or you could just follow it straight and end up in Maryland.


Hey Tho, give me a quick explanation for the last seven paragraphs, because they somewhat lost me. What are you meant to be measuring?

The SFMU is the Social Force Measurement Unit - it measures expenditure of social forces. Given Katters' the only person in the world (to my knowledge) who's using social forces directly, the activation of the fridge should emit a sharp spike of social force. Of course, it will die off with distance, but still, my newly-sensitised* SFMU picks it up, making the pom-pom on a piece of string swing a bit.

By putting together a simple apparatus I was able to measure the maximum displacement both North-South and East-West. By measuring these I should be able to tell which direction the spike came from by trigonometry and stuff. Assuming it travelled along the surface of the globe, it's missing the activation point. However it may travel through the Earth rather than across its surface, or it may "wrap around" the globe so I get signals from the west which have travelled east from CA. I'm researching those on the internets, when it turns out the simple solution is that it didn't come from CA at all. Of course, I don't recognise that, and am probably too proud to think that something other than my experiment would be emitting them. Katters would be too lazy to check it out, and you're kinda doing your own thing and haven't been mentioned in the story much.

I have a bunch of stuff that may come into it later if it turns out that it makes sense given what everyone else writes, but yeah. That's the gist of it. I'm looking at updating my SFMU very soon - the pom-poms are moulting.

* But hugging it would impart emotional energy, not social energy....the two seem linked...
Perfect, thanks.

galaxy salsa

August 2008

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